Written by: Rick Benson, PhD. Last updated: January 22, 2019
Welcome to the home of Chaga!
In this comprehensive guide, you will find all the answers that you should know about the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus). It is divided into different chapters, so it’s easy to read. Take your time, and let’s take a journey into the world of this mushroom. I must warn you that it’s a fascinating journey!
In this reading, you will find the answer to your questions
- What is Chaga?
- How to harvest and prepare it?
- What are some Chaga mushroom recipes
- What are the medicinal effects?
- Side effects
- Where to buy Chaga mushrooms online
So take your time, and let’s jump in!
PS! This article is 3,800 words long. So, get yourself a (Chaga) tea, and let’s start 🙂
Chapter #1: What is Chaga?
Chaga, also the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a very strong and medicinally proven antioxidant that supports prevention and treatment of several serious diseases It’s is widely known across Russia, Siberia, Canada and Asia. That’s the reason it has so many names – Siberian Chaga, Russian Chaga, Canadian Chaga, but also the wild Chaga. It is also called “a Gift from God“, “The King of Herbs“, and “The Mushroom of immortality” and many more.
This fungus grows typically on birch trees and is sometimes found on hornbeam, beech or elm. It can be on different sizes from 5″ to 20″. It can take on different shapes, but it’s always black.
It consists of two main parts –
The exterior, which is hard and cracked and reminds you of burnt charcoal. That part is called the sclerotium.
Chaga (Inonotus obilquus) is very strong and medicinally proven antioxidant that helps prevent and cure several serious diseases.
The interior is not that hard and is brown-golden-yellow in color.
Raw Chaga is moderately heavy, while medium (10-15″ diameter) one weighs around 2-3lbs. If dried, it loses about 70-80% of its weight.
It has been used for thousands of years as a medicine. Clear evidence dates back to the 11th-12th century when Tsar Vladimir Monamah got relief from his lip cancer. The 5,300-year-old Otzi, the Iceman carried mushrooms in his leather pouch and researchers argue about whether the Chaga was also known to Otzi?
Chaga vs Birch Gnarl
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is often intertwined with birch gnarls. They both typically grow on birch trees, but they are quite distinct. You should know that it is variable in shape, but it’s always black on the outside, and golden-yellow-brown on the inside.
You can easily remove the Chaga by punching it, but within the gnarl, you just saw the whole thing off. If you compare the structure from the inside, then it’s totally different – the gnarl is woody on the inside.
You can harvest it by yourself. However, you must know that it’s not easy to find good wild Chaga. There’s a saying that if you go to the forest to harvest for something, you will fail, but if you are just walking, you’ll find plenty of it.
If you’re still excited, let’s talk further!
Chaga is a fungus that grows naturally on birches in the Northern hemisphere. Typically it is found in very cold habitats. To be specific, it grows on wild birch forests on Northern areas of the United States and Canada, Eastern and Northern Europe, Russia (Siberia) and Korea.
It grows on different parts of the outside of the host trees. It can be found as a dome, a cone, or horn shapes with crispy ridges. When harvesting it – keep in mind that the host trees are living beings and should be respected! Always pick the Chaga from areas free of pollution because mushrooms suck in all kinds of pollution.
PS! Always pick the Chaga from living trees. It is a parasite of birch trees and when the tree dies, so will Chaga.
Use an ax, a knife or your hands to remove it. Always leave about 15% of the fungus on the tree to ensure the life-cycle will continue.
How To Prepare it?
After successful “Chaga-trip“ you should learn to prepare it. It is mostly water and needs to be dried. To make drying more efficient – crack it to smaller pieces while it’s soft. 1“ – 2“ chunks are fine to put them out to dry in the warm sun.
After about 4 to 8 weeks you are ready to prepare Chaga from any recipes you want.
You can read more on harvesting and preparing page >>
CHAPTER #2: Benefits
There are lots of health benefits associated with Chaga; a widely researched medicinal mushroom. The biggest benefit is that Chaga keeps your immune system well and serves as an anti-oxidant.
What is an anti-oxidant and why do we need them?
Our body produces free radicals, which are basically unattached electrons bouncing around through our cells. They have the ability to destroy living things like bacteria. On the other hand, the radicals are blamed for many diseases, including most autoimmune diseases, cancers and so on.
Anti-oxidants, on the other hand, link the radicals and make them harmless. Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables and Chaga.
Read more on Nutrex-Hawaii
Supports The Immune System
Chaga contains huge amounts of structural polysaccharides like chitin within its cell walls. Those polysaccharides are good for you. The antioxidant effects keep you feeling younger and supports your immune system. The immune system is also strengthened by Beta-D-Glucans, which modulate the immune system and help normalize cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which shows how strongly a substance can fight against free radicals.
Acai berries have been on many people’s minds for years now as the ultimate superfood because they contain a huge amount of antioxidants. However, researches have found that the ORAC capacity per 100g is almost 3 times higher on Chaga: 52,500 vs. 18,500 for Acai berry. ORAC capacities are measured in micromoles Trolox Equivalent per 100 grams, or TE. Compared with the benefits of other mushrooms: Maitene 16,000, Cordyceps has 12,300 and Reishi has 5,000 micromoles TE per 100 g.
The enzyme, SOD (Super Ocide Dismutase) shows the antioxidant amount. Wildcrafter Siberian Chaga has 3,781; Maitake, Cordyceps and Reishi below 100.
*The results vary from test to test, depending on growing conditions. This chapter’s aim was to give information and not to overstate the advantages. The list was incomplete and there are many other herbs with even greater antioxidant capacities, with new ones discovered every day. More info about this research on Oriveda webpage.
Chaga mushroom is also known as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are said to promote homeostasis and help the body resist stress and adapt to new situations or environments.
Read more about ORAC score…
So, to wrap it up – a diet rich in antioxidants keep you healthier. But what is Chaga good for and what are the other benefits of Chaga?
Chaga mushroom is widely used in traditional and alternative medicine, however, it has been proven to work and provide health benefits. The wide range of different ingredients makes the Chaga a perfect superfood and more and more benefits are being discovered by research. Laboratory studies on the Chaga extract have indicated its possible potential in cancer therapy.
Chaga might prevent cancer.
It is clinically proven that Chaga extract reduces tumors in experimental mice. There are many on-going and credible studies which prove the same.
This mushroom becomes popular amongst researchers when the book “The Cancer Ward“ by Alexander Solzhenitsyn was published in 1968 in Europe. In 1970 it won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
This book was about a small group of 11 patients in Soviet Central Asia in 1955. Because of the book, many researchers wanted to check it by themselves and went to Siberia to talk about the people. Turned out that they drank Chaga tea, instead of coffee, which unwittingly treated themselves for cancer.
The chemical analyses of Chaga has determined the ingredients that make it very effective against cancer. These chemical substances are:
- Polysaccharides/beta glucans – The main active substance of Chaga. Those are mushroom carbohydrates that increase energy levels and boost the function of the brain and liver.
- Betulin/(ic) acid – This substance can kill cancer cells. Studies have proven that it doesn’t produce any harmful effects whatsoever on healthy cells.
- Phytosterols, inotodiols and lanosterols – The phytochemicals and phenols that can stop the growth of harmful microbes.
- Melanin – The chemical substance that gives Chaga one of the highest antioxidant levels among all mushrooms.
There are studies that have proven that Chaga can heal psoriasis. Those studies started in 1951 with 50 patients with different forms of psoriasis. Thirty-eight of those 50 were completely cured. Eight showed improvement, while only 4 remained unaffected. None of the patients were harmed by the Chaga treatment.
Other Related Studies
There are also studies related to weight loss; antiaggregants and blood health; ulcers and gastritis; microbial; antiviral; DNA Damage protection and more.
You can read those here on Chaga mushrooms medicine page >>
CHAPTER #3 – Recipes
Well, now you know what Chaga mushrooms and a bit about their benefits. But how do you get Chaga from the tree to inside your body? There are five main ways – Chaga mushroom tea, an alcohol extract (tincture), in powdered form, capsules or creams. Let’s see the different ways to take this supplement
Before making any Chaga mushroom supplements you need to know some basic things.
Mushroom cell walls contain chitin, which is a hard natural modified polysaccharide, similar to cellulose, that is also found in the exoskeletons of arthropods. Humans can digest chitin, but it needs to be prepared properly in order to extract and release these bioactive ingredients. Heat is the best solution.
Tea is the most popular way to consume this superfood. It is relatively easy to make, and you can use it every day. Not to mention, it can also be added to your regular tea or coffee. It won’t change the taste too much. Some say it will add a slight “mushroom taste” but compared to other healthy herbs like cinnamon, peppermint etc, it doesn’t have a very strong flavor.
How To Make The Tea?
There are basically three ways how to make Chaga tea. Feel free to choose the one you like best. They vary little in taste, so you can’t go wrong. You can, of course, find many more tea recipes from the internet but I’m only gonna cover those that I’ve used and liked.
1. Cup Method
This is the easiest method and I must admit that I use it 95% of the time. It is a fast and easy way to make Chaga tea. Especially if you have never made it before, then this is the easiest way to start. Take a look at the steps:
- Take a teacup with an infuser or filter.
- Now, take one spoon (or two, if you like the stronger taste) of ground Chaga powder. If you haven’t prepared it, you can just grind it. (You can also read about preparing here.
- Boil the water and pour it onto the Chaga.
- Put something over the cup to keep the tea warm and let it steep for 5-10minutes
- Add honey or maple syrup. Sugar, milk, or any natural ingredient that you like can be added.
- Enjoy! Experiment with different combinations, flavors, and ratios.
2. Pot Method
We use this method when making Chaga tea when there are lots of people. This way is claimed to be healthier because it gets more heat to crack the chitin.
Here’s how we make Chaga tea in a pot:
- Take a pot with the wide bottom
- Place the chunks (not bigger than 1″ in size) at the bottom of the pot. Measure 1-2 spoons of powder (or 1-2 chunks) for each person.
- Add the water and heat it up with the cover off. When your tea starts to boil, turn the heat to low.
- After 30 minutes of simmering, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes. The water should be brown.
- Add honey, maple syrup (or sugar)
If you don’t want to waste chunks, you can re-use the chunks for two or three more times.
3. Iced Tea
Yes, you really can make the Chaga iced tea!
For this, read the previous methods, and then just let it cool. You should leave the sweeteners out until it is ready to drink though. Depending on how you cool it, it could take up to 2 hours. I usually just let it cool for about 30 minutes and then put in into a refrigerator for 30 minutes. So I will have a refreshing Chaga iced tea with all its health benefits in just an hour.
Where To Get Chaga Tea?
The best way to be sure of the quality is to do everything yourself, from the harvest to chopping it into pieces, to dry it for several months, and then grinding it for use in tea. This is what we suggest.
However, it takes time and not everyone has the opportunity to gather it from the forest or the patience to prepare it. If this describes you, then read the Chaga mushroom buying guide.
How Does it Taste?
If made properly, reminds me of a little bit of a hot-milk-honey and tea flavor. It doesn’t have an intense flavor. It is often described as a “mushroom“ flavor but it depends on the dryness of the Chaga. The higher the water content, the more mushroom taste it has. When the Chaga is totally dry, it has a much more neutral flavor.
Don’t forget, taste is one thing but the benefits are another – by just drinking good mushroom tea, you will be healthier. Since there is no harm, then why not be healthier?
Of course, there are other ways to consume Chaga:
By soaking the Chaga in alcohol for at least a month or two, you will have another popular supplement: Chaga mushroom tincture. Tinctures are sold on the internet or you could prepare it yourself. Let’s see how:
For tincture, you’ll need Chaga mushroom chunks, a glass jar with a cover, a glass bottle with a stopper, alcohol (rum or vodka), a pan, a stove and at least two months of patience.
- Chop Chaga chunks into 1-2“ size.
- Put them to the bottom of the glass jar (about 1/10 at the volume). Fill the jar with rum or vodka.
- Close the lid and store it hidden away from sunlight. Shake it at least once a month.
- After 2 months – put the liquid in a glass bottle with a stopper. PS! Always close the stopper or the alcohol will evaporate.
- Measure the amount of Chaga liquid in the bottle. Now put twice that amount of water into a measuring cup.
- Put the chunks in a wide-bottom pan and pour ½ of the water you measured from step 5.
- Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes. This step is important because you want to get all the remaining benefits from the chunks.
- Pour the liquid to another container to cool down
- Repeat step 7, pouring the other half of the water from step 5 over the Chaga chunks in the pan.
- Now you have 1 portion of the strong Chaga liquid in alcohol, and 2 portions of extracted from heated. Combine all three batches from steps 5-9 together.
- Enjoy your Chaga tincture!
How To Use It?
Consume the tincture at least once a month to strengthen your immune system. Also, take some when you feel you’re getting sick. If you take it in time, it might help prevent you from getting sick or at least reduce the severity.
PS! The ready-made Chaga tincture contains about 13% alcohol and should not be used by kids or pregnant women!
Chaga coffee is rarely mentioned online.
How To Make Chaga Coffee?
- Boil the water
- Grind 4 tablespoons of coffee beans (or use ordinary ground coffee)
- Add 2-4 tablespoons of ground Chaga.
- Add them to a French press coffee maker
- Let it sit for 5 minutes
- Press, pour and enjoy!
As you see, it’s pretty much Chaga mixed with coffee. The taste depends on the coffee, mushroom is adding a little flavor, or maybe a mild wooden/mushroom taste. So, without losing anything, you’ll get coffee that is good for your health.
Pills / Capsules
For people, who don’t want to prepare Chaga mushroom, the best way is to take capsules. Capsules have the same components and effect as teas or tinctures. When choosing supplements, especially capsules, you need to consider a few things:
- The dual extract is always both more effective and more expensive than raw/unprocessed fungus. It’s worth the price
- Do not pay for emotions, Chaga is pretty much about the ingredients, not the air put in it.
How do you pick the right Chaga capsules?
There are hundreds of different suppliers online.
Well, suppliers typically don’t tell you how or where it was grown, and you can’t know if it is natural Chaga, or grown in a lab. There are some differences between naturally grown Chaga and the Chaga produced in a lab.
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that sucks energy from the host tree and therefore, gets its ingredients from the earth. Chaga that is produced in a laboratory, doesn’t have to get all the necessary ingredients to make it to superfood. The capsules may look similar, but still are some things that make the real wild Chaga better.
So, if you’re looking for capsules, make sure they’re made from natural wild Chaga.
Capsules are typically sold in counts of 60 or 100 and range from 350mg to 500mg. Suggested usage is times per day, depending on the supplier.Check Out Our Suggested Chaga Products ->
CHAPTER #4: Side Effects & Warnings
Although side effects are not common from Chaga consumption, there are still some precautions to be aware of. If you are in poor health, or if you take other medications, you should talk with your doctor about it. Although Chaga is safe and generally without major side effects, you should know some of the rare possibilities:
Bruising & Bleeding
The main side effects associated with Chaga are drug interactions. For example, the extract may affect drugs that reduce blood coagulation (aspirin and warfarin for example). Remember, Chaga is an antiaggregant too, so adding these blood-thinning effects to other blood thinners may be too much. It contains minerals, proteins, polysaccharides and many more, which can add to the effects of those drugs.
When your blood sugar level drops too low (hypoglycemia), you start feeling shakiness, weakness, hunger/thirst, confusion, irritability or perhaps difficulties in speaking. Insulin regulates blood sugar.
There are cases where Chaga mushroom supplements may interact negatively with insulin and other medications that are meant to moderate blood levels.
Pregnancy & Breast-Feeding
There is not much known about the use of Chaga during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore it’s better to stay on the safe side and avoid it.
Chaga can affect auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) by activating the immune system. This can increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, please be on the safe side and avoid Chaga.
Chaga may affect blood sugar control, which again can affect the bleeding during and after surgery. Since Chaga is a blood thinner, it’s better to stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Those are the main Chaga warnings you should know. You can read more on Chaga mushroom side effect page. Though the Chaga’s side effects aren’t widely researched, there are some similar studies with the Reishi mushroom that show that it can cause nosebleeds, itchiness, an upset stomach, dry mouth and throat, and bloody stools.
I’ve found a very interesting book about the side effects of mixing herbs. It is “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide,” by George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox.
CHAPTER #5: Where To Buy The Black Gold Online?
If you’ve read up to here, you have pretty good knowledge of Chaga. Since you now understand what it can do, along with its side-effects and other aspects, you’ll probably want to try it.
Let me guide you on how to buy this black gold.
First of all, I want to warn you. Not everything that shines is gold! Buying online must be a very dedicated process for two reasons: there are spoiled, dubious products on the market that falsely call themselves.
There are many links in the chain, from Picker –> Wholesale buyer -> Supplier -> Buyer (You)
How can you control the value at each of these links? You can’t without a strong and trustworthy partner who controls the chain and buys only from trustworthy suppliers. It is crucial because wholesale buyers often pay by weight, not quality.
Chaga is purchased by quantity, not the quality, therefore it’s crucial to know different steps from picker to supplier.
The main causes of concern about bad pickers and sellers are:
- Low-quality Chaga harvested near the polluted areas (factories, cities, near roads etc.)
- Chaga is treated with something (stagnant water, sand or some chemicals) to get a higher weight
- Mixed with other mushrooms
- False information on the rescription
- And so on.
However, we are making an in-depth list of honest Chaga sellers that will be updated soon. In the meantime see the aspects about Chaga mushroom buying here.